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Calendar Denial

Maddie has what I consider to be a pretty
good grasp of the concept of time; she’s got the days of the
week memorized, and has learned to place them in her daily context
to understand how much time is passing or needs to pass for a
special date to come up. Saturday, for example, is Waffle Day, when
Daddy makes waffles for breakfast; Sunday is Church Day; and Monday
is Playgroup Day. If Madeleine’s trying to figure out how
long it will be until, say, her birthday, we’ll tell her that
she has five more Waffle Days until her birthday. So far this seems
to be working well, and Maddie loves to recite through the days of
the week until she arrives at something fun.

And invariably, that Something Fun is Wednesday – Gym Day!
Gym Day is Maddie’s raison d’etre, that activity which
makes all other life worthwhile. At random points in the week,
she’ll stop whatever she’s doing and say, “What
day is it today? And then what day is it tomorrow? And the day
after that?” and so on, until we hit Wednesday, at which
point Maddie says, “And that’s the day we go to the

She rarely makes a mistake on this any
more, so I was unprepared on Tuesday when I came home from dropping
Brian at the train to have my mother ambush me at the door and
whisper: “We’re having a bit of trouble with our day of
the week today.” Thinking she was over-exaggerating, I walked
over to my still-sleepy girl and snuggled her in her p.j.s.
“What’s up, puppy?” I asked.

“Mommy, today’s Wednesday, and I get to go to the gym

I stopped. “Oh, honey, no, today’s Tuesday. You go to
the gym tomorrow, sweetie.”

Her face crumpled, her chin quivered, and she segued effortlessly
into a full-blown wail. “No! No! No! No! Today is Wednesday,
Mommy! It IS! It IS!”

I spent the next twenty minutes trying to convince her that we
weren’t going to the gym that day, but without success. My
baby girl was absolutely certain she was wrong and everyone else
was right, and couldn’t understand why we were being so mean
to her. “Mommy, why are you teasing me about this?” my
poor girl whimpered at one point.

Maddie finally called her father so she could hear the truth, and
spent five minutes weeping to him. “But it IS Wednesday,
Daddy! It IS! Stop saying it’s Tuesday! Tell me it’s
Wednesday, for real!”

In the end, my little doubting Thomas would not be convinced by
anyone that it wasn’t gym day; she steadfastly clung to the
notion that she should be at the gym, that all her friends were
there waiting for her and we were making her late. So I broke down
and told her she could go to the gym.

I have to say I thought about this a long time; I knew it could
backfire on me, and cause an even bigger meltdown after getting her
hopes up in the car. But I didn’t know what else to do. Cora
was sick and needed me at home, but before my mom drove Maddie over
we sat down and had a long conversation. I explained that she could
go in and see for herself if it was “her” time to
“take class”, or if it was set up for something else. I
told her that if the gym people said she could play, I was happy to
let her play, but if they said no she’d need to come home.
She nodded confidently and accepted the terms.

And before she left, I handed her the family weekly calendar and a
sheet of stickers. “Baby, just in case today isn’t
Wednesday, I’d like you to take our calendar with you. The
lady at the gym can show you when Wednesday is, and can help you
put a sticker on that day so you know how much longer you have to
wait before Wednesday. Does that sound good?”

As soon as she left I scrambled to call the gym and warn them she
was coming. My mother said Maddie walked in and noticed right away
that it was set up differently, and that it was all big kids
practicing for an upcoming competition. A very nice lady came out
and talked to Maddie and explained it wasn’t her time, helped
her with her sticker, and gave her a gym calendar as well so Maddie
could follow along on her own. From my mom’s report,
Madeleine was very composed, listening intently, and making grownup
“Mm-hmm” noises throughout the conversation. When it
was over, she calmly walked away and got into the car.

So our gamble paid off – Maddie saw for herself that we
weren’t “teasing” her, or punishing her by taking
the gym away from her, and got over her grief and got on with her

I wish I could say that there was a happy ending as Maddie rushed
into the gym the next day, but alas, family illness kept her away
at the last minute. The good news is that I think she learned from
the whole thing, and took the last-minute cancellation in stride.

“That’s ok, Mommy,” she said. “I can go to
the gym next week. Just one more Waffle Day to go.”


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